Doctors all over the country are taking industrial action today (Thursday) in the first national doctors' strike since 1975. Clearly this is not action that is being taken lightly and it should be given the full support of the public.
There has been a barrage of news stories in the newspapers, TV and radio media over the last few weeks since the strike was announced. Almost all have been negative. One told us how some doctors earn more than the prime minister. Another said "Striking doctors will destroy public trust... and it might never return". Others told lurid stories of how bad individual doctors are or scaremongering about people being left without medical care.
The truth is, this is all designed to turn us against the doctors because they know that they have a lot of support among the general public. How good individual doctors are or how much some get paid is irrelevant. Dr David Bailey, chair of the Welsh GP committee, said "GPs will see everyone on Thursday who is ill or thinks they are unwell and needs to be seen by a doctor. In hospitals, all emergency and inpatient work will be done as normal. Any urgent surgery and anything to do with cancer or terminal care will be done as normal. Elective surgery will be cancelled and will be rescheduled to take place within 12 weeks. We are trying very, very hard not to affect patients – our beef isn’t with patients and never has been."
The action is being taken because, according to the British Medical Association, the changes to their pension scheme will result in doctors paying up to 14.5% of their salaries in pension contributions, which it claims is twice as much as other public sector staff on similar salaries. However, many doctors voted for action, not just because of this but because they are angry at cutbacks in the NHS dressed up as 'efficiency savings' and the perceived dismantling and privatisation of the service.
The doctors are part of a wider grouping of trade unions and other organisations opposing the government on public sector pensions and the unfair cuts they are making to health, education and other public services. Their fight is our fight. We should support them.